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A Little Debate on God’s Sovereignty

Category Articles
Date September 24, 2002

In 1920 and 1921 Arthur Pink was engaged in an itinerant ministry in California preaching to hundreds of people in various locations, often in a tent, and meeting up with some of the leading Plymouth Brethren Bible teachers of his day, including Harry Ironside. He wrote faithfully to his friend I.C. Herendeen of Swengel, PA. In 1994 Richard Belcher edited and published these letters in a slim volume entitled, “Letters of an Itinerant Preacher” (Richbarry Press, PO Box 302, Columbia, S.C.29202).

The Banner of Truth has a more representative selection of Pink’s letters written on a range of pastoral issues, as well as several valuable books by this 20th century Puritan, the 50th anniversary of whose death is being recognised this year.

The following is one of the more interesting of Pink’s letters from his time in California edited by Dr Belcher:

22 A Discussion on God’s Sovereignty in Salvation

596 22nd St., Oakland,
January 21st, 1921

Dear Bro. Herendeen:

This time I have some news which I know will interest you. Tuesday night Bro. Thompson told me that Mr. Alesor Marshall had had a short talk with him that afternoon and was anxious to meet me, the three together. Bro. Thompson appointed a time for 2 yesterday afternoon. Bro. Marshall and I were there on time, but Thompson was 15 minutes late. Bro. Marshall was quite agreeable and for 10 minutes we discussed common places. He was not at ease and seemed to wait on me for an opening to introduce what I knew was uppermost in his mind.

He had handed me a tract by Bennett on “Fellowship”. So I gave him the opening thus. Said I, “I like Mr. Bennett’s writings for he is more Calvinistic than most of the ‘B’ [Brethren?] writers”! Mr. Marshall replied, “Yes, but he would not go nearly so far as you go.” At this time Bro. Thompson joined us. Our conversation lasted about 90 minutes, Mr. Marshall monopolized the conversation and as he is so much older than I, I refused to be rude and butt in ‘too much’.

Mr. Marshall’s main point was based on I Tim 2:1-6. He pressed me as to the scope of the “all men” we are to pray for. I said “All without disfavor, not all without exception.” He replied, “Bullingerism!” I said, No; the Scriptures warrant and necessitate such a distinction. I pinned him down then, and finally he allowed that in a few instances, “all men” is used in the N.T. in a restricted sense. He next pressed me for a reason for limiting “all men” in I Tim. 2:1, he said, “You have no reason: it’s just your theories which demand it.” I said, “Pardon me, but the example of my Lord warrants it” , He “prayed not for the world.”

We next had a long argument on that: Mr. Marshall insisting I had no right to appeal to John 17:9. He asked me what Christ was praying about there: and before I could answer said, “For the oneness of His own people, and hence he could not pray for ‘the world’ in such a connection.” I challenged that: pointed out Christ was praying for other things beside the Unity of His people , among other things, for the salvation of those who should yet believe. Mr. Marshall tried hard to hold his point. Finally, I defied him by asking him to give me just one scripture anywhere else where Christ prayed for anyone else save His people!

He next returned to I Tim 2 and pressed me hard on 2b. His main point was this: God had commanded us to preach the Gospel to every creature: if Christ died for the elect only, God is tantalizing non-elect sinners with an offer of salvation. On this point we first had a lengthy duel on whether or not the Gospel is an “offer”; ultimately he agreed it was not. Then he returned to his argument about “tantalizing” and we got nowhere on that point.

Next he switched to John 3:16 and I first reminded him of C.E. Stuart’s words on it, and he said , “Yes, sad indeed; Stuart was a hyper-C [Calvinist]”. Then I said, “Wm. Kelly took the same view.” And he said, “Yes, I know, & Mr. K. was another C [Calvinist].” I could not resist the temptation to say , I’m glad there has been one or two Calvinists even among the Brethren! We had it up and down on John 3:16, but, of course, neither convinced the other.

He sighed & groaned, and kept saying, “now you see where Mr. Pink stands” , this to Bro. Thompson. He reserved his ‘trump card’ for the close. He said, “You believe God foreordained everything which comes to pass.” I said, Yes. He said, “Some Christians have told lies, others have stolen: did God foreordain their sins? I said, “Certainly just as He did that Judas should betray Christ, and Israel crucify Him.” He said, “Shocking, shocking”, and Bro. Thompson groaned too. Mr. Marshall then closed his Bible and said “Further conversation is useless.” The meeting thus terminated.

But we shook hands and parted friendly. I was curious to see how Bro. Thompson was affected, but after the evening meeting, when we had a few minutes together, he made no reference to it, and seemed quite as usual toward me.

We had a glorious meeting last night too! Attendances are steadily improving: about 800 out last night.

In our spare (small) room, on the top in the big box in which we have chunks of wood and paper, you will find a copy of Haldane on Romans. Will you please forward this to Pastor L.M. Winstead, Madisonville, Ky., & charge postage to my account. No further news. Both of us are well, and trust “you all” are ditto.

With best wishes,

Yrs by Grace

P.S. I rely on you treating as strictly confidential what I have recorded of conversation with Alesor M!

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